Switching Food And Drink Purchases Could Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions By A Quarter

By Steve Wynne-Jones
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Switching Food And Drink Purchases Could Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions By A Quarter

Switching food and drink purchases to more environmentally-friendly alternatives could reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from everyday grocery purchases by more than a quarter, a new study has found.

The study, by The George Institute for Global Health and Imperial College London, found that in some product categories, the emissions saved can be significant – for example, swapping a frozen meat lasagne for a vegetarian option could lead to a reduction of as much as 71%.

In order to prompt shoppers to make more sustainable choices, however, on-pack labelling of greenhouse gas emissions would be required, the study suggests.

Australian Grocery Purchases

The study focused on the Australian market, calculating the projected emissions of annual grocery purchases from some 7,000 Australian households using information on ingredients, weights and production life cycles, which is available in The George Institute’s FoodSwitch database.

It found that meat products contributed close to half (49%) of all greenhouse gas emissions, but only accounted for 11% of total purchases.


At the same time, fruit vegetables, nuts and legumes represented one quarter (25%) of all purchases, but were responsible for just 5% of emissions.

Consumption Patterns

“Food and beverage consumption patterns, particularly in higher-income countries like Australia, need to change significantly if we are to meet global emissions targets," commented lead author and epidemiologist, Dr Allison Gaines, who conducted the analysis.

“But while consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of the food system and willing to make more sustainable food choices, they have lacked reliable information to identify the more environmentally friendly options.”

Around one-third of total global greenhouse gases are attributable to the food and agricultural sector, while the combined health and environmental costs of the global food system are estimated to be $10 trillion (€9.14 trillion) to $14 trillion (€12.87 trillion) per year.


A recent report in The Lancet suggested that more than 12 million deaths per year could be prevented if global food systems transitioned to healthier, lower-emission diets.

“The results of our study show the potential to significantly reduce our environmental impact by switching like-for-like products," Dr Gaines added. "This is something consumers could, and would probably like, to do if we put emissions information onto product label."

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